Chris Venegas

Chris-Venegas---FIMy mother always wanted me to graduate from a good high school, which is why I was enrolled at Jones College Prep. It was a great opportunity, but my junior year, I started having personal issues with my father and coped in unhealthy ways. I got kicked out of school for possession and was sent to an alternative high school, which felt more like a war zone. There were fights almost every day and students would even set fires on campus.

I knew I was better than that and wanted more. More than anything, I wanted to make my mother proud. It was difficult to stay focused, but seeing the same people who caused trouble come to me for help on assignments put everything in perspective. I returned to Jones and graduated, alive and unaffiliated with any gang. It was an accomplishment no one expected of me.

Even though I worked so hard to graduate, I felt like my options were limited after high school. I applied to a local college but I didn’t understand how the process worked, and when I didn’t hear back right away, I thought they wouldn’t respond at all. Without any type of schooling past high school, I would have had to work any job that would hire me. Then I met a Year Up staff member. I was excited about Year Up’s technology classes and the fact that I would be receiving college credit for becoming a “professional.”

During the classes, I learned how to be a real professional and how to use my personality to network, which is what I thought was the most important. I also benefitted from the support I received from my advisor. I will never forget one day when I asked if I could speak with him. I burst into tears; my home was almost foreclosed on, the gas was shut off, and I’d lost one of my friends. I did not want to bring my personal problems to a professional setting but I felt so pressured, and I needed to get it all off my chest. His listening was a big relief and I was able to get through the rest of the day.

Through Year Up, I earned an IT internship at CVS Caremark. I assisted other techs and as soon as a ticket came in, I worked on it. I proved my dedication and my work ethic, and the fact that users put in a good word to my management made it that much better. Soon, I was offered the full-time lead-tech position.

I still sometimes cannot believe it. I love the fact that I am young and working with people much older but treated as everyone else is. I am pursuing IT certifications and a degree. I have more control over my life and the life of my family as a whole since I am able to assist a lot more with finances. And I know my mother is proud of my career.

It’s important to make a decision to be a better you. It is possible to accomplish great things if only you have an opportunity, and there are opportunities for those who want to grow.